opinionBy I. K. Gyasi
"When beggars die there are no comets seen:
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes." - Calthurnia in Shakespeare's play, JULIUS CAESAR
The illness and the death of President John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills have so been successfully turned into such taboo subjects by the government and the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) that you risk possible death for mentioning them.
Professor Mills, whose death was reported to have occurred on Tuesday, July, 24, 2012, did not belong to his family alone. He did not also belong to the NDC alone, even though he stood on the ticket of that party for the 2008 presidential election. He was the President of the whole of Ghana, and not of his family or of the NDC.
If the whole country went temporarily dead, it was not because he was a superbeing, but because, as President, he personified that intangible but real thing known as the State.
It stands to reason to suppose that at the time of his death, another person in Ghana or elsewhere in this world might also have died. His death was announced from the Castle, the seat of government, while the other deaths must have been known only to a comparatively few people.
The funeral went beyond the honours given to certain persons deemed to have brought honour the country, or done good service for it.
The government took charge, expecting state time, energy, money, and material resources for the event. Flags stood at half mast for a number of days. The government organised a country-wide one week celebration, and no one went to work on the day of the burial. Even those who did, undoubtedly, thought of the event.
Why should the government stonewall any discussion of the death of the President? Why should spokespersons in government and the NDC shower such ill-mannered insults on anyone, no matter how genuine is his concern, for daring to mention the subject of the President's illness and death?
Long after the death and funeral rites of the late President, the new President, Mr. John Dramani Mahama, has just concluded a so-called, nation-wide "Thank You" tour, ostensibly, as the National "Abusuapanyin " (Head of Family ), not at the expense of the late President's nuclear and extended family, or of the NDC, but of the state. Why should the rest of us be excluded from expressing our views on the matter?
When some people and organisations (well-meaning or otherwise) called for a post-mortem, they were told that even though the man was the President of the whole nation (whether you voted for him or not), a post-mortem was a strictly family matter.
Yet, at the burial grounds of the late President, his brother, Dr. Cadman Mills, announced to the whole world that his brother had died of a "massive stroke". Perhaps the "massive stroke" did not affect his speech and his ability to move his fingers, as he committed his spirit to God.
I had thought that the file on the late President's illness and death had been forever put away, never to be discussed again. Yet read this from the DAILY GRAHPIC issue of Thursday, September 13, 2012, headlined, "PRESIDENT MILLS WAS NOT BROUGHT TO HOSPITAL IN A VAN -BRIG. GEN. KPORNYO" with Mary Ankrah & Irene Bamfoah Boateng as the byline.
"The Commander of the 37 Military Hospital, Brigadier General Paul K. Kpornyo, has dismissed reports that President John Evans Atta Mills was transported to the hospital in a Kia van.
The report continues: "He said President Mills was brought to the hospital in an ambulance which had on board a doctor and two paediatricians."
Finally, "The health personnel, he said, took care of the President as the ambulance moved from the Castle until it arrived at the hospital." (Centre pages 32-33).
Dear reader, you see what I see? The report says Brigadier General Kpornyo revealed this information at the maiden graduation ceremony of the postgraduate students of Diploma in Project Design and Management (DPDM) in Accra the previous day, that is, Wednesday, September 12, 2012.
Was Brigadier Kpornyo correctly reported as actually saying that President Mills was accompanied to the 37 Military Hospital by "a doctor and two paediatricians? That portion of the report baffles me.
You see, all paediatricians are medical doctors, but not all medical doctors are paediatricians. A paediatricians is a medical doctor who has specialised in the treatment of the diseases of children.
In the first place, it is absurd to state that President Mills was attended to by a doctor and a paediatrician, since, as I have stated above, a pediatrician is also a doctor, though with specialisation in children's diseases.
Secondly, if Brigadier General Kpornyo was correctly reported, why assign a children's doctor to attend to a 68-year old man? Was President Mills suffering from some children's disease that we outsiders never knew of? Did Brigadier Kpornyo say "geriatricians" who deal with the care and health of the old people?
Did he say "physicians"? But that would also be absurd, for the simple reason that physicians are also medical doctors. What did Brigadier Kpornyo actually say?
Granted that he was incorrectly reported, my question is why he volunteered that information at the time he did, and to that particular audience. I thought that kind of information was classified, and meant only for the ears and eyes of the government, the President's family and the NDC.
Did he also mention the make and number of the ambulance, the name of the driver, the names of the doctors and the two paediatricians, and the time of the arrival of the ambulance at the hospital? Or are these pieces of information also family, party and state secrets not meant for the consumption of the masses?
As we all know, a lot of speculation and rumour attended, and continue to, attend to the late President's state of health, the cause of his death, and the circumstance leading to his death.
We are told to shut up when we as much as open our mouths to talk about the late President in the matter of his health and death .Yet, Mr. Kofi Totobi Quakyi, as one-time Minister of Information, once reportedly stated, even a minister does not have much privacy.
He reportedly said: "Although a minister has fundamental right to his privacy, it would be unrealistic to expect that this will not be restricted.
He reportedly added: "Because, as long as the Minster's private life is within the same social environment in which he holds the high office of Minister, it is not possible to divorce the minister from the private man. Every major decision he makes becomes a public choice to be reported and discussed in the media." (GHANAIAN TIMES report of Thursday, April 24, 1997 quoting a GNA report). If a mere minister, why not the President of the whole nation?
What did the President die of? Who killed him?